Backyard bakery in Westby turns out Scandinavian treats

“Taste of Scandinavia”


Photo: Peter Thomson / La Crosse Tribune
Husband and wife Gordon Vande Voorde and Joyce Quarnstrom run Kvarnström’s Bakery in Westby, Wis., specializing in Scandinavian and local favorites.

La Crosse Tribune

Nine years after they started Kvarnström’s Bakery in their backyard, Joyce Quarnstrom and her husband, Gordon Vande Voorde, still enjoy turning out Scandinavian and other specialty baked treats.

“A Taste of Scandinavia” is their motto for the bakery, which operates from a 13- by 20-foot red building behind their house at 210 Coon Prairie Ave. on the south side of Westby, a Norwegian settlement in Wisconsin.

The bakery building probably was constructed as a carriage house, Vande Voorde said. He and his wife used it for storage before they gutted and renovated it, to create a licensed commercial kitchen for their bakery.

Vande Voorde retired in 2015 as a teller at Western Cooperative Credit Union. Quarnstrom retired from her 30-year nursing career when she decided to become a full-time baker and open Kvarnström’s Bakery in July 2011.

Quarnstrom, who is of Swedish and German descent, said Kvarnström is the original spelling of her family’s last name. Her grandfather changed the spelling when he came to America around 1910.

“This [bakery] has allowed us to stay busy, stay active,” Vande Voorde said in an interview at a table on the outdoor patio next to the bakery, and near the couple’s very large garden. “And it keeps us involved in the community.”

Photo: Peter Thomson / La Crosse Tribune
The bakery sells a cookbook of favorite family recipes, put together by the owners’ daughter, Emma.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction when you bake something well,” Quarnstrom said of operating the backyard bakery. “And it helps us stay in touch with family and friends.”

The bakery makes Scandinavian specialties, such as flatbrød, krumkake, strulls, rosettes, sandbakkels, lefse, and kransekake, which is a ring cake that’s often served at Norwegian celebrations, such as weddings, Christmas, baptisms, and anniversaries.

Kvarnström’s Bakery also makes baked goods, such as breads, buns, scones, pies, coffeecakes, caramel rolls, pecan rolls, muffins, cookies, dessert bars, and cheesecakes.

The kransekake cakes that Quarnstrom bakes typically have 18 rings. She decorates the cakes with flags of countries, such as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

About half of what the bakery makes is Scandinavian, Quarnstrom said. Many of the bakery’s customers bring in recipes from their ancestors or older relatives and ask her to bake those items for them.

Most of the bakery’s production is on a bake-to-order basis, Vande Voorde said.

But this is the fourth year that the bakery also has had a display area with baked items that walk-in customers can buy immediately, without ordering in advance. Hours for walk-in customers are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday, or at other times by appointment, year-round.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, customers who walk into the bakery on Thursday or Friday are asked to wear face masks, as Quarnstrom and Vande Voorde do. The bakery owners also wear face masks when they make deliveries.

The pandemic has had a negative effect on the bakery’s business, as fewer people are holding events, such as wedding receptions, which they might buy baked goods for. “There are no big gatherings,” Vande Voorde said.

Kvarnström’s Bakery supplies some of its baked goods to the Tangled Hickory Wine Bar in Viroqua, the Westby House Inn & Restaurant in Westby, and the Legacy Grill & Pub in Coon Valley. It also occasionally supplies some of its products to area organizations for events they are holding.

Kvarnström’s Bakery also has been a vendor at the Viroqua Farmers Market some years, but not this year.

And it has shipped baked goods to customers in several states who ordered by telephone or email.

The bakery also sells a cookbook that the owners’ daughter, Emma Quarnstrom, put together using color photos and favorite family recipes. The cookbook, Kvarnström’s Traditional Recipes from Our Backyard Bakery, was published in 2014.

“It’s basically recipes for our favorite things,” Quarnstrom said of the cookbook. “It has recipes for things like cookies, pies, cheesecake, and all the Scandinavian specialties. Some of them are from family cookbooks, with lots of generations of recipes.”

Quarnstrom and Vande Voorde are South Dakota natives and moved to Westby about 20 years ago. “The original reason [for moving] was our attraction to the [Pleasant Ridge] Waldorf School [in Viroqua], Quarnstrom said. The couple’s daughter attended school there for three years.

This article first appeared in the July 19, 2020, edition of the La Crosse Tribune

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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